301 NW 3rd Ave., 223-3388, dragonartstudio.com.
Contrary to popular belief, there are actual Chinese people in Portland’s Chinatown, if you look hard enough. Dragon Art Gift Store stocks many shipping crates worth of goods imported from the Middle Kingdom, running from impressively kitschy tchotchkes to pretty, off-the-rack cheongsams and quality puppets (the store is attached to a Chinese puppetry studio, so it’s a no-brainer). An abundance of bright red New Year’s decorations will please both connoisseurs of the ironic and the Asian, at about an eighth of the price you’d pay at Cargo in the Pearl.
Buy this: Mao print canvas bag ($19), dragon puppet ($19).
438 NW Broadway, 800-547-5700, boxernw.com.
Fact: Restaurant supply stores sell better quality products, at better prices, than consumer housewares stores. True, they’re not always the prettiest, but they’re made to take a beating, and where else can you find butter spreaders, 18-inch pepper mills and sneeze guards? Along with cooking utensils, pots, pans, glassware, cutlery and crockery, this sizeable supply market does a good trade in new and used industrial cooking equipment: practical stuff like huge griddles, heavy-duty toasters and bar-quality blenders, and high-novelty-value hot dog roller grills and nacho cheese warmers.
Buy this: Twenty-six-quart stock pot ($40.61), pizza delivery warmer bag ($68.05), three-piece cocktail shaker ($11.49).
Hand Eye Supply
23 NW 4th Ave., 575-9769, handeyesupply.com.
In a city where craftspeople are rock stars, they need the duds and accessories to match. Hand Eye Supply sells trendy aprons, tool belts and pencils (yes, some stationery is cooler than others) for the kind of people who like to get their hands dirty, but not their $130 cargo pants. Snark aside, there’s a lot here that even amateur handymen and women can appreciate: sturdy notepads, all-in-one bike tools, durable jackets and the kind of hardback design books, with titles like Manufractured and Bio-Structural Analogues in Architecture, you put on your coffee table to look smarter.
19 NW 5th Ave., Suite 208, helliongallery.com.
Everyone knows you can buy oh-so-kawaii, mass-produced Japanese toys at Compound in Old Town’s “geek quarter” (also home to Backspace, Ground Kontrol and Floating World Comics), but for truly obscure gifts from the land of the rising sun, venture just a few doors down to this tiny gallery. Two floors above Hamburger Mary’s, Hellion showcases “undiscovered” Japanese and Japanese-inspired contemporary art. There are original pieces and prints, plus shelves of weird little sculptures, toys, cards, stickers, bags, books and T-shirts. This is a million miles from the Sanrio store in Pioneer Place Mall: from hand-sewn, anti-fungal bondage key-ring dolls to make-your-own sand art kits, it is almost guaranteed you can buy your art-wanker friends something they’ve never seen before.
Buy this: OkuOku bondage key-ring doll ($20), Yasutaka Matsumoto handmade paper sculpture ($90).
Oregon Leather Co.
110 NW 2nd Ave., 228-4105, oregonleatherco.com.
Treating your nostrils to the rich, heady aroma of pure rawhide is reason enough to step inside this old-school Portland leather emporium. Despite the location, this is not leather of the kinky variety, per se, but it has all the tools—rivets, buckles, shears, spikes—for DIY leatherwork, for those looking to treat their loved ones to a handmade codpiece or ball gag this holiday season. There’s also a fine selection of pre-made leather jackets, boots, caps and belts, for something a little more conservative.
Buy this: Leather driving cap ($29.95), leather chaps ($279.95-$309.95), make-your-own moccasins kit ($20).